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Nicola Sturgeon insists second independence referendum will happen next year

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reacts with the delegates following her speech at the SNP autumn conference in Aberdeen, Scotland
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reacts with the delegates following her speech at the SNP autumn conference in Aberdeen, Scotland Credit: Reuters

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted Scots will have a second independence referendum next year despite no evidence the Prime Minister will allow it.

Ms Sturgeon used her keynote speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen to claim that the UK Government's opposition to handing her the powers for another referendum was "not sustainable" whe she issues an official demand later this year.

Despite Downing Street making clear again on Monday that her request will be rejected, she claimed that "we can already see the cracks appearing" in Unionist opposition to another vote.

She argued the SNP triumphing in Scotland in the forthcoming general election would further ramp up the pressure on Boris Johnson, and challenged delegates to make public demand for another vote "irresistible."

However, she faced criticism for providing "no answers" about the details of separation during her 45-minute address, including the potential for a hard border with England and the mammoth costs of her currency plans.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon delivers her keynote speech to delegates during the SNP autumn conference at the Event Complex in Aberdeen Credit: PA

Scotland's education and health systems received only fleeting mentions, despite Higher exam results falling for the fourth year in a row and a slew of key NHS waiting times being missed.

Ms Sturgeon announced that free childcare will be extended to school holidays for children from the poorest families, if the SNP wins the 2021 Holyrood election.

She also unveiled new police and court powers to remove those suspected of domestic abuse from the homes of anyone at risk.   

With polls showing support for separation has increased to 50 per cent, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP was was "winning the case" and was currently updating its independence prospectus.

She attempted to address her hardline members' frustration with her refusal to consider a different route to independence other than a referendum, such as an SNP election win.

Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon, gives her speech at the annual SNP Conference in Aberdeen Credit: AFP

Raising the issue of what she will do when the Prime Minister refuses her referendum request, she said: "The question should be demanded of the Westminster parties – what gives you any right to deny people in Scotland our ability to choose our own future?" 

She claimed the Unionist parties "know there is going to be a referendum and they know that when there is, Scotland will choose independence."

Ms Sturgeon said a separate Scotland could be "a new country founded on hope and a vision of shared humanity and compassion" and a "light in a world that seems dark".

But Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Tories' interim leader, said: "Nicola Sturgeon wants to be judged on health and education, yet she couldn’t spare a single sentence for either during this lengthy and divisive speech.

“Instead, she simply wanted to get through what was a potentially hostile conference with a series of vacuous promises which will never be kept, and throw some red meat to the hardliners."

Pamela Nash, chief executive of campaign group Scotland in Union, said: "This was a speech full of nationalist rhetoric with no answers about the catastrophic impact of breaking up the UK."